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Presentation for Ohio LinuxFest 2011.

Presentation for Ohio LinuxFest 2011.

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  • 1. So You Want to Write a Technical Book....Dru LavigneCommunity Manager, PC-BSD ProjectOLF, September 10, 2011
  • 2. Outline● What you should be doing before you submit abook proposal● Should you self-publish or co-author?● Will you become rich and famous? is it worth thework?● How to submit a book proposal● What to expect in contract negotiations● What to expect when it comes time to actuallywrite the book with a deadline looming over yourhead● How to promote your book
  • 3. Introduction● based on my experience, YMWV● technical writer since 1998, primarily on open source since 2000● author of 3 technical books● currently manage documentation for three projects (2 open source)
  • 4. Introduction● the rules of the writing game are changing, making it a great time to be a tech writer● opportunities abound: zero barriers to entry, numerous free publicity methods● how do you get noticed in a sea of info?● how do you make money, or launch a career, when so much is available for free?
  • 5. Introduction● noone gets paid to write docs for “free” software(not true)●besides, if youre not a developer, youre anobody in open source (still true, but gettingbetter)● writing is a skill (use it or lose it)● writing is an art (it needs to be explored)
  • 6. What you should be doing● open source is still a Wild West of missing andincomplete documentation--pick a project andstart writing!● enough work to last a life time or two!●you get to pick your hours, language, what towrite about and in what style● its all archived and searchable● honed writing skills are an asset to any employer
  • 7. What you should be doingGet your work (and your name) out there!● vital if youre looking for writing contracts or envision a book in your future● dont wait til work is “polished”, but always write your best● be anal with grammar and spelling, even with casual works (email, blog posts)● do your research (or it will bite you back)
  • 8. What you should be doingWrite daily!This allows you to:● become an expert while building a body of work● define your style● gain an audience● find out what you like to write about, and whether you really do like to write
  • 9. What you should be doingTools of the trade:● blogs (personal, work, pet project)● book reviews (Amazon, publishers)● articles & how-tos (gratis or paid)● review board of peer-reviewed journal● write one chapter of a book● contribute to online magazine
  • 10. What you should be doingWhat publishers want to see:● the size of your audience● that your expertise is currently “hot”● the scope of your work● a well-thought out proposal● that you (and your topic) exist in Google
  • 11. Co-author?● one way to get your foot in the door● allows you to share the workload (and the proceeds)● ideally, you already have a working relationship with the co-author● ideally, the co-author has been published before or is deemed an expert on the topic
  • 12. Self-publish?● IMHO: use a big publisher for your first book, do what you want for the rest● this establishes your reputation and you benefit from publishers experience● if first book is a hit, your bargaining power increases with that publisher● learn from the publishers editing cycle, layout
  • 13. Self publish?Self-publishing may be better when:● market is small or topic is too niche to interest mainstream publishers● youre the expert in that market and your audience is aware of your promotion avenues● you want to cut out middle-man and control revenue cut, promotion, and production
  • 14. Self publish?Dead tree or e-book?● publish on demand systems (e.g. allow you to create soft or hard cover bound books in small batches● most publish on demand systems allow you to create a storefront and/or sell through Amazon as well as provide an ISBN
  • 15. Self publish?Dead tree or e-book?● the epub/Kindle market is growing● retail price is lower (usually less than $10) but proceeds can be higher than a book royalty (35% or 70%, depending upon country of sale)
  • 16. Self publish?e-books make it easy to self-publish: (US only)
  • 17. Is it worth the work?What you should know beforehand:● for technical books, 10,000 hard copies is a “best seller”● 3 months f/t (50+ hrs/wk) is considered fast● a very small % of books gets promoted by mainstream publishers and small publishers have less resources● publishing is a gamble--this is reflected in the contract
  • 18. Is it worth the work?● dont expect to make a lot of money: you could probably make more working the hours you put into the book● dont expect to become famous● write as if your book is the tech best-seller of the year● even if the book doesnt make money and you dont become famous, the process can be very satisfying and result in unexpected gains (e.g. future employment, speaking engagements)
  • 19. Submitting the proposalResearch before you write the proposal● every mainstream publisher has specific instructions on their website: find them and follow them to the letter● a proposal isnt something you whip up in an hour
  • 20. Submitting the proposal●proposals are detailed: typically the entire tableof contents, the first chapter of the book, asynopsis, proof that you understand who theaudience is and which books compete with yours● you basically need to envision the entire book in your mind● publishers know that books evolve as they are written, you should understand this too
  • 21. Contract negotiations● if this is your first book, the publisher is gambling on your success● dont expect to get a sweet contract for the first book● royalties are on the net (not the retail price) of the book● ask friends who are published if they have a recommended lawyer to review the contract
  • 22. Contract negotiations● is the time frame realistic?● who retains copyright? it should be you● do you get distribution rights? (aim for these after a period of time e.g. after first year)● do you want translation rights? what are the translation royalties?● what are the royalties for non-print distribution?● can you live off of the advance while writing the book?
  • 23. What to expectWhat you should know beforehand:●default is still Word template with no revisioncontrol--ask to gauge flexibility● you will learn a lot working with your editor--aimfor daily feedback and push if your editorbecomes AWOL
  • 24. What to expectWriting is hard work:●expect to put in a full day, every day: the amountof time available seems like a lot, its not● ideally you are getting regular feedback andfixing edit requests will be in addition to yourwriting●you will literally have no life if you attempt towrite a book while working f/t--aim to get enoughvacation days, flex time, reduced hours, etc.
  • 25. Promotion●dont expect the publisher to care as much aboutyour book as you do● make sure your book has a Kindle version● make sure your book is on Google:
  • 26. Promotion●approach reviewers for a review and try to get agood one on slashdot; check with the publisher forpolicy on review copies●use social media (blog, tweet, FB, LinkedIn, etc.)and use book cover as your profile image●Amazon, Google, Lulu, etc. have guides onpromoting your book
  • 27. ContactSlides: